Three days 4AN70 has been strapped down to that platform. True, all motor functions had been shut down from the neck down, but he had snapped at a lab intern taking notes. Things weren’t looking very promising on the front of ‘convince the assassin unit that killing humans is wrong.’
Genji found Mercy out on the observation deck of the laboratory in the night air. Her hair wasn’t up in its usual messy bun or feathery ponytail but wafting around her shoulders. Human eyes could maybe make out her hair silvery in the moonlight or the vague shape of her against the light of the Watchpoint, but he could make out every detail of her. She looked exhausted. He had plugged into some of the security feeds only briefly that day to see her in even more long, drawn-out arguments with Jack and other Overwatch directors. There were a lot of doubts about keeping such a dangerous Omnic prototype on base–Genji at least displayed agreeableness and non-aggression. They could not say the same for Hanzo.
“When are they going to shut him down?” asked Genji.
“They aren’t going to shut him down–” Mercy started.
“He continues to hold the core programming to kill humans and revive the Kantō Omnium’s God AI,” said Genji, “In terms of the safety of this whole facility, the most optimal choice is immediate shutdown and disassembly.”
“The Omnic Crisis is over, Genji. Overwatch wouldn’t just destroy an omnic it doesn’t understand,” said Mercy.
“I don’t think he is misunderstood. He made his directives very clear,” said Genji.
“He didn’t kill McCree,” said Mercy, “The mission debrief stated that he ‘saw little to gain’ from killing McCree. That’s a start!”
“That’s not the same,” Genji sat next to her.
Mercy took a deep breath. “If he somehow manages to bypass our control chip and attacks anyone on the watchpoint, then and only then would he be targeted for elimination. As he is now, it’s like you said, right? He can’t attack anyone. He can only…” Mercy clasped her hands in her lap and huffed haplessly, “Stew in increasing hatred for humans and you, I suppose.”
“…if he cannot fight against the omnium’s core programming, and he was the superior model, what does that mean for me?” Genji said quietly.
“He wasn’t the superior model,” said Mercy, ”You were going through an… enormous transformation in your core programming when he–” Mercy caught herself, “I need to look inside his head,” she said with some determination.
“That port on your tablet is a two-way street–Best case scenario: He overloads your tablet and burns it out–you might get some burns on your hands in the process.”
“I can replace a tablet–” Mercy started.
“Worst case scenario–He uses the tablet to access watchpoint databases, perhaps even uploads his consciousness to turn every automated function of the watchpoint against everyone here.”
“Your series can do that?” Mercy’s eyebrows raised.
“…In theory,” said Genji, “The God AI told us that it could overtake certain electrical systems through us, but it’s quarantined. Still, I… don’t know what he learned or how he upgraded himself during his years at the Omnium.”
“That’s not going to happen,” said Mercy, folding her arms, “I’m going to look through his head–we’ll compare both of your thought processes… see what kind of… transformation you went through in comparison to him.”
“We are from the same series…” Genji mused.
“Genji—No matter what happens to him, I’ll protect you. Just because you’re from the same series, that doesn’t mean you’ll share the same fate. I promise you,” her eyes were wide, shining in the light-pollution muted starlight.
“You… don’t care as much if he gets destroyed as me,” said Genji.
“Of course I don’t–I mean obviously I don’t want him destroyed, but you saved my life and– and–He destroyed you–And–well, he still wants to kill humans. And… and he’ll probably try to destroy you again… if he still sees you as–as–” her shoulders bunched up with some indignation, “’Corrupted.’”
“You get so angry on my behalf,” Genji tilted his head at her. If she didn’t know better, she would have thought she heard amusement in his voice.
“Well, one of us has to,” said Mercy with a slight laugh in her voice.
“Must we?” said Genji.
“You saved my life, Genji, so I have to protect you, too,” said Mercy, “Which,” she huffed and smiled, “Apparently means yelling with Jack and McCree all the time.”
“So this isn’t purely scientific,” said Genji.
“What?” Mercy reddened, “What are you talking about?”
“You care about my existence beyond the scientific discoveries you can make through it.”
“Of course I do!” Mercy blurted out.
Genji was silent for a few moments, apparently processing this.
“…Genji?” Mercy leaned a bit closer to him.
“Hanzo said that you had overtaken many of my systems,” said Genji after a while, “On reflection of my interior processes, I will say that, as time has passed since my reactivation, you have occurred as a frequent factor in my programming’s decision making. You’ve come to factor into many of my thought processes–even ones not pertinent to the preservation of my unit.”
“Was that the whole, ‘Not a virus’ line?” Mercy smiled.
“Yes. I wonder if I occur with the same frequency in your thoughts.”
“Oh–oh…” Mercy pushed her hair back. Her face was burning. “Yes…” she said, with a slight smile, “I do think about you often.” Her eyes widened and her shoulders slumped and she suddenly flopped back on the ground, “Ach du scheisse, McCree was right, I am imprinted.”
Genji leaned over her. “By that logic, this has not been an impartial experiment from the start. As the subject of the study, I am most likely far more affected by you than I would be by other observers… I am… a contaminated sample,” he said and then suddenly perked up and looked at her.
Mercy just looked back at him.
“…That was an attempt at a joke,” said Genji.
“You do not have to laugh just because I told you it was a joke,” said Genji.
“No–No it was funny–I mean… Humor,” Mercy pushed herself back to an upright sitting position, “You have humor now. I mean I know this experiment’s probably off the rails by now, but I should probably write that down.”
“As a subjective subject, it is possible that I have had humor for a while, and I just wasn’t very good at it until now,” said Genji.
Mercy laughed at this. “Learning AI,” she managed. Her giggles faded into the night air and she looked up to find Genji’s visor fixed on her.
“I have a question that I hope is not too invasive,” said Genji.
“Ask away,” said Mercy with a smile.
“You said you think of me often, what do you think of when you think of me?”
“Oh!” Mercy fidgeted with her hair and straightened her jacket a bit, “Well it’s–It’s a whole mess of things, honestly–It’s not all neat lines of data like with you. It’s just this big tangle of questions and observations and more questions from those observations and me being mad at Jack about lab logistics and parameters and more questions and it’s just… it’s just a mess.”
“What kind of questions?”
“Lots of little technical things,” said Mercy, “…it’s hard to think of just one on the spot…”
“What’s the first?” said Genji.
Mercy sat up and took a deep breath, then bit her lip, “Promise you won’t think it’s ridiculous?”
“Promises are an organic phenomenon. I cannot promise against my own programming,” said Genji.
Mercy rolled her eyes.
“But… I will attempt to continue to hold the same respect for you to the best of my programming’s abilities,” said Genji.
Mercy smiled at this, brought up her hand, rolling her fingers tentatively, then reached forward and touched the side of Genji’s faceplate.
“What does touch mean to you?” Mercy asked quietly, trailing her fingers down to his jawline.
“My hard-light field allows me pick up warmth and pressure,” Genji lifted his hand and pressed her hand against his faceplate to feel the whole of her palm, “Texture, too.”
“But what does it mean to you?” said Mercy, “With the Shambali, Omnics have the Iris–they’re capable of viewing their psyche as something practically independent of whatever physical frame they’re inhabiting. What does touch mean then? I know a decent amount of Omnics install Tactile modifications, but they’re post-Crisis–”
“Are you asking me what touch means to me, or what your touch me means to me?” said Genji, taking her hand off of his face but in a slow, deliberate movement, still holding it as his visor tilted up to her.
“I–Um…” Mercy glanced off, “If I was invading your space–”
“You were not,” said Genji. He looked up at the handful of stars, “I can feel other Omnics poking or digging around in data streams. That is as real to me as physical touch for a human. You are very real to me.”
“You’re real to me,” said Mercy, giving his hand a slight squeeze. “When I occur in your decision processes–I mean… what do you think about when you think about me?”
“We could get the tablet,” said Genji and Mercy just snickered in response.
“I want to hear it,” said Mercy.
“You push back this section of hair roughly 387 times a day,” said Genji, pointing to her bangs, “Your eyebrows shift down 23 millimeters when you’ve gone more than 18 hours without sleep. They shift up 31.9 millimeters when something new has your attention, regardless of your sleep level. I wonder what makes you bite your lip. What makes you furrow your brow for longer intervals than 4.76 seconds. I wonder–I used to wonder… if you saw me as anything beyond a phenomena of technology. Which you have since confirmed that…. you do.”
“I really do,” said Mercy, leaning in.
Genji’s vents started making a ‘vrrrr’ sound as they vented heat. “So since then I wonder how you will act on that perception. Your core temperature and heartbeat tend to fluctuate a fascinating amount—”
“Kiss me,” said Mercy.
“Is that an order?” said Genji, cupping his free hand to the side of her face.
“It’s a request. You can refuse it,” said Mercy.
Hard light rippled over the surface of Genji’s faceplate in a heartbeat, forming that handsome human face with the ridiculous eyebrows he seemed so attached to, and she had to admit she was attached to, too. Still, she gave a squeeze of his hand.
“As you really are,” she said bumping her forehead against Genji’s softly.
The hard-light flickered away, leaving his original faceplate. He closed the distance between them and her arms wrapped around him. They kissed there, on the roof of the lab.